OKAY, let’s start with the restaurant’s name – Sailing for Oranges?
It’s a bit rubbish, isn’t it? Sounds like the Man from Del Monte bought a canoe.
I’m all for a good backstory and this one is about a ship that brought Spanish immigrants to Fremantle in the 1850s and it was so hot they pulled down one of the sails and turned it into a swimming pool where they ate oranges.
Cute, but if the food isn’t up to scratch, it’s just a lot of marketing fluff.
Situated on the site of the old Monk, and then briefly Kahuna Brewing Co, Sailing for Oranges enjoys a large, prime spot on the Cappuccino Strip in Fremantle.
I was a never a fan of the Monk – over-priced food and pretentious beer – and Kahuna seemed to come and go with little fanfare.
It’s a mystery why neither succeeded as there’s loads of foot-traffic and it’s elevated from the street, so patrons are removed from the hubbub below.
Owned by the same people behind Emily Taylor in Fremantle, Sailing for Oranges is a bar/cocina serving Iberian-inspired drinks and food.
To cut through the jargon, it’s basically tapas-style food and the menu had a range of dishes including cured meats (Jamon Iberico, Bosquito), vegetarian and salad (Patatas Bravas, Crispy brussels), skewers (Chicken espetada, Skull Island tiger prawns) plates (Slow roasted goat in fino sherry, Shark Bay Clams in harissa) and a selection of desserts and cheese. They also have a breakfast menu from 7am until 11:30am.
I really like the refurb: a large airy alfresco with shade cloth provides the perfect spot to watch life unfold on the Cappuccino Strip, or venture inside to the moody, dimly-lit restaurant where floral patterns mingle with cosy booths and classy furnishings.
The atmospheric interior is impressive and something a bit different from the industrial chic that dominates refurbs these days.
The waiting staff were super friendly and smiley, and I’m sure I detected a Spanish accent from one of them, adding to the air of authenticity.
My dining partner, former Chook food critic Jenny D’Anger, was loving her asparagus with ajo blanco (a kind of ‘white gazpacho‘ made from bread, crushed almonds and garlic $14)
“The fresh green spears, like Goldilocks porridge, were just right, tender but with a pleasant crunch,” she said.
“They were neatly stacked on an ajo blanco sauce, which added a creamy garlicky zing which was offset by the sweetness of a scattering of blanched almonds.”
She wasn’t as enthusiastic about her croquettes (three for $8).
“A smear of black garlic failed to lift the leek and manchego croquettes, which, while soft and creamy with a pleasant crunchy breadcrumb coating, were a bit bland. (The cheese comes from sheep in the La Mancha region of Spain).”
She rounded things off with the octopus skewers ($20): “A couple of octopus skewers were cooked to perfection – tasty and tender but still meaty – but at $20 for what was effectively four pieces of occkie a tad pricey.”
I was busy tucking into the lemony chicken and pine nut stuffed cabbage leaf (two for $16)
A bit like a dolmade on steroids, it was nicely presented and had a tasty blend of chook, citrus and cabbage. I thought the flavours would be stronger, but they were quite subtle and refined.
We rounded things off with a hearty mound of patatas bravas ($14) – super crunchy skin and a lovely tomato-style sauce and aioli to dip the fluffy spuds into. Very enjoyable and good value.
Sailing for Oranges was a bit of a mixed voyage – the venue and service were top notch and on occasion the food did hit the heights, but sometimes there just wasn’t enough on the plate.
Sailing for Oranges
33 South Terrace, Fremantle
by STEPHEN POLLOCK